Director of Marketing,
Redline Equipment, Archbold, Ohio
Executive Vice President,
Farm Equipment Manufacturers Assn., St. Louis, Mo.
Pictured Above: In addition to the in-depth dialog on marketing and product representation, Heather Hetterick (left), of Redline Equipment, a 12-store Case IH dealership with stores in Ohio and Indiana, and Vernon Schmidt (right), of the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Assn., exchanged their respective viewpoints on including legislation, product safety and buy-back rules.
Vernon Schmidt: You’re marketing your stores and your main line. How do you market all the shortlines?
Heather Hetterick: It’s difficult, Vernon, and it’s getting harder every day. This is one of my challenges. I have 5,000 people on my Facebook page, but I don’t know which brand they’re loyal to or what they’re in the market for.
This is one of my pain points. Where they’re making it even more difficult for me is everybody is coming in saying, “You have to do this.”
With the website, for example, everybody has a different set of rules and they don’t play nice together. It’s a constant juggling act to make this manufacturer happy so they don’t take away my discounts and to make that manufacturer happy so they give my co-op — and still brand our own dealership.
Everybody is talking about who owns the data and the right to repair. And I’m sitting over here in my world and asking whose customer is it? Three manufacturers last week all came to me with their co-op marketing package and they want customers to go to their site first and then to ours. That doesn’t make me happy because that’s my customer, or so I think. That’s my lead. I don’t want the micro site link because it’s my dealership and I’m the one who’s going to have to follow up on it.
“This wasn’t a problem last year ... I want to be a good partner and I want to sell the product as much as anyone, but man, how do we think this through so we both win…”
– Heather Hetterick
That is so important as we look at digital marketing. I need that lead so I can retarget it, put it into marketing automation. To me in the marketing world, that’s like the next conversation.
It was a hole that got bigger because I need to put all these manufacturers on it but they’re not at every one of our locations. So how do I market in one area, but not take it away when it’s my competitor in another area? It makes your head hurt. We’re starting to work through it with my website team and conversations with the manufacturers; we’re finding ways around it.
I have no problem with putting that stuff out there and promoting it. I’m big about content. I want to provide them that but, man, when you have different locations with different lines it becomes really hard. This is the big question ... Whose lead is it? Whose customer?
I just don’t think that I can do my job properly unless it goes to me directly. You know, Vernon, this wasn’t a problem last year; these are new problems. I want to be a good partner and I want to sell the product as much as anyone, but man, how do we think this through so that we both win?
Schmidt: When I started, many of our shortline manufacturers didn’t know who their dealers were because they were selling it to the wholesaler, who is very protective of who their customer was. The wholesalers considered themselves the manufacturer’s customer. Well, over the years more have gone dealer-direct. A good number still sell wholesale. But then they’re bringing it over here to the whole world.
I’m trying to drive traffic to my member sites with my website, that’s all I care about; providing information for my members. If a farmer stumbles onto our website, we just want him to get out to the manufacturers’ sites as quick as we can. Hopefully the manufacturer’s site has a “where’s my dealer” search function by zip code.
Understanding that you have your major that’s controlling a lot of what you do with your social media and website, what can a shortline manufacturer do to make your job easier? You know, to help you promote and sell the product to your customer, and to have it on your lot ready to go. What can they do?
Hetterick: It’s different now with print than digital and that’s the issue. In print, we were in dealer group ads that referenced the locations.
“The shortline manufacturers win that battle for that specialized piece of equipment. My fear is, what happens when they can’t get it on the lot?…”
– Vernon Schmidt
But digitally it becomes an issue. Some of them are being proactive in targeting, but we’ve had some who, had “co-op rules from 1998,” I call them. Again, they’re in a situation with too limited resources.
The answer is being up on their game digitally and knowing the resources available, and partnering with us. Now in some cases I know a brand is so important to my bottom line that I pay for it without any co-op. I know the month I need to do it and I create my own stuff.
Some of the small manufacturers don’t have an agency behind them or those resources. But for those that do, have the co-op be relevant and be updated and then provide materials.
Pre-made graphics, is another one, the things you can easily grab for social media or play videos, that makes a marketer’s job much easier instead of having to go out and create it ourselves. It’s harder than you’d think, I was searching and trying to get information for a shortline page I wanted to hook up to search engine marketing. And when I went to the manufacturer to ask for it, I got a picture of the wrong colored tractor.
And remembering that farmers just love stories. When I was in the media business, there was a manufacturer that sent me a list that said, “Hey, these are people that are using our products innovatively who we recommend that you do a story on.”
To this day, I think that was the best PR ever. Because the next day I called up that farmer and said, “Hey, I heard you have this piece of equipment and I heard your doing something cool with it.”
Redline’s Heather Hetterick is presenting on a dealer panel, “Using Content Marketing to Target Customer Interactions,” at the 2018 Dealership Minds Summit in Iowa City, Iowa July 24-25. For more on this event, visit www.DealershipMindsSummit.com
How does the manufacturer make sure we have the tools? Because we have all these products and all these lines.
Making that information easily accessible and something just a little creative. This is the way that the product is innovative in this industry. A little more than, “Oh, you know, this is the best on the market.” But digging into that story I think would help too. Because that’s what really resonates with customers.
Schmidt: A mainline like Case IH gives you all the resources and there are Case IH dealers all over the country. If a shortline gives you good stuff and they have a good brand that’s right for the market, is it easier to stand out perhaps because it won’t have as much noise?
Hetterick: Yes, in certain instances. I even look at our geographic area, there are certain lines that are just more popular than others and you have to play to that. So, I think that there’s opportunity with many of them. There is that area to take advantage of that.
I’ve been talking a lot, what are your major challenges, or the things you don’t look forward to?
Schmidt: Probably the one that involves you: distribution. It’s when I open my computer and learn a group of 5 dealers just joined with 6 over here. I run to the website to learn how many and which shortlines each has? You know that somebody’s going to get cut because not every manufacturer will get to keep their equipment in.
You know, nothing is more important to our members, I think, than strong, independent dealers who are making choices of what equipment is going to be on the lot based on what is good for their store and for their customer.
As those decisions become more removed and more corporate, are the innovative products from a small manufacturer still going to find a place on that lot? I remember marketing class and how in grocery stores the battle is all about shelf space ... Getting your product on that shelf. It’s the same thing with shortline manufactures. They advertise with Farm Equipment, so the dealers know about them, and they’re at farm shows like this. But in the end that piece of equipment needs to be on a lot so somebody can see it. Particularly for someone who’s looking for small equipment.
Our members are incredibly innovative. They’ll come up with new products and solutions and can do it fast. For a specific niche, they’ll make 20 or 200 of something; they don’t need to build by the tens of thousands or export the same piece all over the world. They’ll win that battle for that specialized piece of equipment. My fear is, what happens when they can’t get it on the lot?
That’s why I’m so excited to get to talk with you today to hear what they can do on their end to make your job easier. I know the easier it is for you to do your job, the more likely you’re going to say, “Yeah, ‘we’re going to keep that short line, we’re not going to cut back on that one.”